Over the weekend, Chris and I spruced up the nightstand in his combination office/guest room with fabric upholstery, furniture restorer, and ribbon trim on the lamp shade.
You must admit, it’s a big improvement…
Maisie-Cat finding her way into both photos reminds me a bit of television car commercials that feature a woman at the side of the vehicle, pointing out its features, LOL. In truth, she spends a good portion of her day sacked out on this bed, particularly since I redecorated this room. I guess she likes it as much as we do!
Before I show you how we did the nightstand make-over, here’s a reminder of the inspiration for it…
This fully upholstered chest trimmed in leather retails for $3,950.
My nightstand isn’t FULLY upholstered, but I refurbished it for less than $20 in fabric and miscellaneous supplies. Read on to learn how.
First, choose and gather your supplies
Your first order of business is to choose your fabric. You want something substantive but not so thick it will be difficult to work with. Since we’re going to use fabric starch, cotton or cotton blends will absorb the starch better than all-synthetic fabrics.
If using a patterned fabric, you’ll need to consider how you want to place the pattern on the furniture piece. The larger the pattern repeat, the more fabric you may need to place it how you want. It’s perfectly okay to use a geometric print; just know it will be more obvious if it doesn’t go on straight.
I chose a drapery/suiting-weight cotton in a small houndstooth print, which was more forgiving than a larger version of the same type print would have been. The lines, in fact, helped me line it up with the drawer edges.
Once you have your fabric, re-measure the area you want to upholster, add a couple inches to each of the four sides, and cut. The starch may cause the fabric to shrink up a bit as it dries, and you can always cut off excess later. Better safe than sorry.
Other materials needed include:
- About 2 cups of liquid starch (available in grocery store laundry aisle)
- Small bucket
- Staple gun & staples (ours is electric)
- Burnishing tool
- Small paint brush
You might also want to protect yourself and your surroundings with…
- Reusable rubber or disposable gloves
- Work apron
- Drop cloth or rags to mop up drips
We did this in our garage, so a rag was more than adequate. Starch does wash off most surfaces easily enough, in case you have any accidents.
How to upholster drawers
We used a combination of fabric starch and stapling to upholster our drawers. We started with this tutorial on upholstering with fabric starch but ended up finishing our project a bit differently for two reasons:
- We were doing drawers rather than the frame
- Our drawers had a lipped front piece rather than one that closed flush with the rest of the chest
We didn’t want the upholstering to ruin the underlying finish, and using fabric starch as an adhesive supposedly ensures that. But because of the lip, we could staple the fabric from the back without marring the drawer fronts and make wear points more durable.
So why use the starch at all? Because it tacked the fabric down and ultimately made it easier for us to secure edges and corners.
LEFT: Begin by pouring about 2 cups of liquid starch into a small utility bucket. You won’t use much, but if you prefer having more in the bucket, that’s okay. You can pour what’s left back into the container and reuse.
RIGHT: Fold your fabric into a rectangle that will fit into the bucket, immerse in the starch, and allow it to soak in fully.
LEFT: Remove the soaked fabric, leave partially folded as shown, and squeeze between your fingers to remove the excess.
RIGHT: Position the fabric over the area you want to cover, lining up print and fabric edges with overlap on all sides. Carefully pat down and smooth out what you can with your hands.
Use a burnishing tool over the entire length to remove any remaining air bubbles and further tack the fabric in place. Be sure to hold down one end as you move the tool across the surface to the opposite end. Excess starch will drip out the end and can be easily mopped up with a rag.
If you don’t have a burnisher like the one shown in the photo, use a paint scraper or other rigid flat surface. Just be sure it’s clean.
Allow to dry overnight. The tutorial I followed didn’t say how long to allow for drying, but we started right after lunch, and by late afternoon the starch had stiffened the fabric, but portions adhered to the wood were not dry.
We did our project in our garage when it was in the mid-30s F. outdoors. We ran a small electric heater nearby for most of the afternoon to aid in drying. If you can do the project in a heated environment, it will likely dry faster.
LEFT: When you’re sure everything is dry, you can either continue with the starch, painting it on with a small brush to adhere sides and corners, or do as we did and use a staple gun. Start by stapling all the sides.
RIGHT: Then go back and fold in and staple corners. Make sure as you do the corners will appear neat and tidy from the front and allow the drawer to close properly.
Having stiffened fabric to work with made folding and holding fabric in place until we stapled much easier, but it also helped to have one person holding the fabric and another stapling.
Finally, use an awl to carefully make holes in the fabric for the drawer hardware. Stretch the hole out even more with the screw you’ll use to attach the hardware. This may loosen the adhesion a bit, which will cause the fabric to twist when you put the hardware back on, so go slowly.
But if some fabric does loosen, just repaint the area with starch. This happened to us on the middle drawer, and I worried the rings it created would show. But as you can see, they disappeared when dry.
A word of caution : The tutorial said the starch would not affect the finish of the item to be covered. However, her dresser was painted white, whereas mine was stained dark brown. My fabric was also partially white, and the wetness caused the brown stain to bleed through in spots. Mostly this was around the existing holes for the knobs, and reinstalling the hardware covered the stains. However, I found a few other faint spots–thankfully on the edges and not noticeable once the drawers were returned to the nightstand.
Top upholstery hack
My nightstand top, like the rest of the piece, has seen better days (more on that later), but because it has an edge that extends out over the sides, I didn’t think it would upholster neatly. So I decided to make a custom topper instead that would fit the top perfectly, lay flat, and protect the top from further damage.
It’s simple sewing for anyone. Just measure out the dimensions you need, add 1.25 inches to length and width for a 5/8-inch seam allowances all the way around, then stitch with right sides together, leaving an opening to turn fabric to the finish side. Pin, dampen and press out seam lines and corners flat, then top stitch 3/8 inches from the edge. This will close up the opening and catch the raw seam allowance without any need for hand-sewing.
About that beat-up wood finish…
We used Howard Restor-a-Finish and Howard Feed-N-Wax to give the exposed wood finish on the rest of the nightstand a lift. It’s easy, quick and effective, AND we had some of both products left over from other earlier projects. Follow the link to see how we used these products to revitalize a vintage vanity we purchased.
We used mahogany in the restorer, though any of the darker brown tones offered would have worked as well. It took about 10 minutes to rub the Restor-a-Finish on the top, front and sides, another 10 minutes for it to dry, and another 10 minutes to apply the wax. We then let the piece sit overnight to absorb as much of the wax as possible before we rubbed off the excess and buffed it to a shine.
We plan to do the same to the footboard of the bed as another weekend project. It has a couple gashes from the vacuum, as well as spots where other furniture (at our other house) got pushed into or against it.
You may have noticed a bulky surge protector on the nightstand (it’s there between the bed and the lamp in this photo) in “before” photos of this room. The bed is a Sleep Number, so it needs a protected electrical feed, and guests use the other outlets for charging their phones and tablets. But it looks terrible, doesn’t it? And it takes up space that could be better utilized for more attractive accessories, but this is the look you get when you leave it to your husband to problem-solve.
So while the nightstand was in the garage, I suggested we outfit its top drawer as a charging station to get that ugly surge protector under cover.
LEFT: Using a hole saw attachment on his electric drill, Chris drilled a hole in the back of the nightstand where the top drawer hits.
RIGHT: Then he threaded the surge protector plug and cord out over the drawer back, through the hole he made in the nightstand back, and plugged it into the wall socket behind the bed.
This got it off the tabletop and into the drawer, a convenient place for guests to stow their own devices while charging, as well as jewelry, pocket change, medication, and any other personal items, corralled on either the tray or in the bowls as needed.
Perhaps you noticed in previous photos, I used some of the grosgrain ribbon left over from the bedskirt to trim the lamp shades on the two smaller table lamps.
This was a simple task:
- Just run a bead of hot glue on the lamp shade where you want your trim, one side at a time.
- Press your trim down with your fingers carefully, being sure to wipe off any excess that seeps out the sides without burning yourself.
- Move to the next side and repeat until all four sides are covered.
- To create a finished end, allow a little more trim than you need for coverage and use a dot of glue to tack the end to itself, then glue the turned-under edge to the trim already glued to the shade. If you start and stop where your shade is already seamed you can turn that part to the back.
And just so you know not all mistakes are tragedies, I originally planned ribbon trim on the bottom edge only. But I got one shade’s bottom confused with its top. Removing the ribbon would have left glue residue on my shade, so instead I simply added a band of ribbon to both tops and bottoms.
Thankfully I had enough ribbon! And both Chris and I like it better with two rows. But after all the work and fretting, someone needs to make some martinis and fill up those cute glasses for us! Now where did I put that shaker?
There it is! PERFECT!! Now who’s gonna pour?
If you want more…
- You’ll have to get your own liquid refreshment, but see where this room started and how far it’s come while you imbibe:
- Suit Up for Menswear Boho Chic x 12 (inspiration)
- For My Valentine: Mad Men Boho Chic -1
- For My Valentine: Mad Men Boho Chic – 2
- Mad Men Boho Chic Home Office – 3
- An Easy Way to Hang a Small Rug (Mad Men Office/Guest Room Redo – 4)
- Accessories Light Up Mad Men Office – 5
- File This Make-Over for Future Reference (Office/Guest Room Redo – 6)
- Shop my Etsy store for authentic midcentury modern accents and vintage accessories from other eras, like you see pictured in these posts. You may find just what your room (or your sweetheart or YOU) needs.